by Greg Talcott
If Tom Brady is the face of the NFL, then Eli Manning is the face in Tom Brady’s nightmares. After all, it is Manning the Younger who has been the only thing that kept Brady from wearing 6 Super Bowl rings. However, the Giants have been out of the postseason for the last three years and posted losing records in each of the last two. For all the grief Manning took over his dreadful 2013 performance, he bounced back in a big way in 2014, and could very well lead the Giants to a division title and playoff berth this season. Last year, fantasy owners saw Manning post his second highest yardage and TD totals of his career while cutting down on his turnovers (though 21 turnovers is still way to many). Coming into fantasy draft season, Eli Manning is heating up on the “Sleeper Pick” boards. If he can play up to expectations, the Giants may well make a deep playoff run in 2015.
A second year in the offense with Odell Beckham Jr. and a healthy Victor Cruz in addition to a number of other offensive weapons have Manning poised to have a career year. For fantasy owners, 2015 represents the best argument for Manning as a legit QB1 of any year during his career. Assuming he keeps the turnovers down, the upside on Manning could be 4500+ yards and 35+ TD’s. He is going to be available in most drafts in middle to late rounds so there is no rush to take him barring a Giants fan being in your league.
The running back situation is best used in leagues with a “Flex” position, as Rashad Jennings‘ value is diminished with the arrival of Shane Vereen from New England. Vereen is an excellent receiver and as a result, Jennings may give up some catches he would have otherwise had as a three-down back. Only in deeper leagues would Jennings be considered a RB2 level player, and a weak one at that.
Wide receiver and tight end are where fantasy owners have a lot to choose from. The aforementioned Odell Beckham Jr. is already a top 5 fantasy option at WR1 in his second year. If Victor Cruz is healthy, he is a legit WR2/WR3 level player who has good chemistry with Manning. Expect 90+ receptions and 1200+ yards and 10 or more TD’s from Beckham and 70+ receptions for 1000 yards with 8-10 scores from Cruz. Beyond that, Rueben Randle is in the conversation and may be draft-able late as a WR4 or bench strength. Larry Donnell is getting some talk as a TE1 this season given his breakout second year. While some of that is well deserved, he is going to see fewer targets with Cruz returning from injury and presumably two healthy RB’s catching balls from Manning. Donnell is an ideal TE2 and low end TE1 in deeper leagues this season.
The biggest question on the Giants is their defense, which ranked 22nd overall last season while giving up 25 points per game, which is in the bottom third of the league. Making matters worse, “Fire Marshall Bill” aka Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants top defensive end, is going to be unable to start camp due to a fireworks related injury. For fantasy owners, the Giants may present an occasional favorable match-up play if you are in a pinch, but your focus is best served on the offensive side of the ball.